Beyond the subject of how SharePoint can be delivered from the Cloud, I am increasingly being asked why move SharePoint into the Cloud.

I don’t necessarily believe that the reasons for delivering/consuming SharePoint from the Cloud are any different to any other Cloud appropriate workloads or that all organisations would benefit from Cloudifying SharePoint, but I do believe that the nuances of SharePoint lend it to being an excellent candidate for being a Managed Cloud workload.

On a sidebar and for clarity; what do I mean by “Managed Cloud”?

In the IaaS space, there is a wide choice of service providers, most of which focus in on providing the I of IaaS – operations ready virtual machines (and associated infrastructure such as networks and storage). There is nothing wrong with this model and it works for many workloads, but with IaaS, many of the benefits of the Cloud (especially those that are seen at the SaaS end of the Cloud spectrum) are not always realised with the exception of those associated to organisations not having to deploy, manage and maintain datacentres.

PaaS is traditionally seen as the provision of “developer ready” environments, where the operating systems, underlying data layers (storage and (in SharePoint’s case SQL Server) databases) and the “development environment” (in this case SharePoint) are provided in a managed form on which the consuming organisation would then develop an application (in this example through the configuration and customisation of SharePoint). The PaaS service provider takes responsibility for managing the SharePoint platform and database tiers bringing (PaaS) Cloud to their clients in a managed form, hence the moniker “Managed Cloud”.

Anyway, back to the question at hand – Why?

Looking beyond the obvious, I’d suggest that the core reasons for wanting to move SharePoint workloads to Managed Cloud would be the benefits attached to:

  • managed scalability
  • built-in partner
  • resource right-purposing
  • risk mitigation

Managed Scalability
Cloud providers give us scale-fast/fail-fast for both scale-up and scale-out but in many scenarios the execution of scale/fail can be complex with SharePoint. Bringing more SharePoint servers into a farm, for instance, isn’t just a case of switching them on, there is a reasonable amount of configuration required to bring them online, especially if the redistribution of resources (such as Search) is required. With a Managed Cloud provider the lead up, planning and execution for scale/fail (growth monitoring, capacity planning, farm topology changes, etc.) can be the responsibility of the provider, taking this aspect of SharePoint away from you, the customer.

Built-In Partner
SharePoint is complex. There, I said it. Most, if not all, SharePoint implementations require frequent (in some cases constant) input from experts that are hard to find (if you want to employ them) and expensive (if you want to contract them). With a Managed Cloud provider, you get a built-in SharePoint partner. If they’re able to provide a managed SharePoint service and stick their reputation on the line in contractual form, it’s a fair bet they will have the chops to give customers what they need across the SharePoint piece.

Resource Right-Purposing
SharePoint consumes your time like a demanding new-born. It is a fair bet that your resources are stretched. Spending vast amounts of time feeding and watering SharePoint probably is not the best use of technical resources you have. If you can offload the management of your SharePoint platform to a service provider who have the requisite level of expertise and experience then your resources can focus on delivering World-class applications built on SharePoint that meet the actual business needs and imperatives of your organisation – less time feeding and watering, more time smelling the roses!

Risk Mitigation
The risk attached to running SharePoint is not insignificant. It has many moving parts, you need many environments to support ALM, it relies on several complementary technologies and it is ever changing within itself – think of the number of CUs, PUs and Service Packs there are for each version. Having dedicated, skilled, experienced, right-sized and always-on resources to manage your SharePoint platform will almost certainly lower risk in relation to the running of the platform.

The bottom line is that, as I stated above, SharePoint (beyond simply being a web based technology) lends itself well to Cloudification and as workloads go, it’s probably a great place for organisations to start their “to the Cloud…” initiative.

I’m not suggesting that this is an exhaustive list of potential benefits, but it will do as a start – I’ll likely add some more in due course.

more to follow…